Some Thoughts On Prayer (6)
S. Leonard Tyler
"Why have I prayed so sincerely, confidently and unselfishly for something, I believed to be just, and did not get it?" This is an apt question and needs consideration. I guess, all of us have wondered or pondered this thought. Job certainly did. He could not, for the life of him, understand why God allowed the tragedies to befall him and his family. He plainly expresses his inability to comprehend God's dealings with him. Yet, his faith would not allow him to blame God.
Job's faith in God and His goodness confirmed in his own heart that his only hope was in God and that God would not forsake him. He humbled himself before God in worship and said, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly" (Job 1:21-22). This proves, to me, that God knows best and that my trust must be in him. I may not understand, I cannot comprehend the infinite mind and good of God, but I can believe that every good and perfect gift comes from God. The story of Job confirms this and is preserved to sustain us in times of trouble. It is for our learning, admonition and assurance the God knows best, and we must trust Him.
When a child goes to his parents and requests some special consideration, he cannot understand why they fail to give it. You and I recognize there, are some things that children cannot have and some things they must endure to grow up strong and capable of living successful lives. They feel that we are inconsiderate, hard-hearted and forgetful of them. However, the parent should know what is best and answer accordingly. Parents could be mistaken in responding to the child's petitions but God knows what is best. We, as children of God, must make our prayers in absolute faith: God knows what is best and will answer our petitions accordingly. Then let us pray: "Lord, strengthen our faith, give us courage and confidence; and, whatever response we receive from Thee, help us to be therewith content."
Paul had a thorn in "the flesh" and prayed "thrice, that it might depart from me." The answer was not a positive one. This does not prove that prayer is ineffective. The Lord did respond to Paul. Paul said, "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor. 12:7-9).
Why God refused to remove the thorn is stated, "Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure" (2 Cor. 12:7). We still must suffer for Christ. We must suffer so long as we live in this physical world, and death is certain. This, however, does not prevent, or make void, our privilege or prayer. It is true, God may see fit to withhold some requests we make. Our faith must say, "God knows best and will grant what is best according to His own purpose." Our faith in God should build in us the desire that, since God's will is best, that is what we want.
Paul accepted the thorn gracefully and took strength in his infirmities. He said, "I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Cor. 12:10). God's refusal to remove the thorn did not weaken Paul's faith. It strengthened it; in fact, it lead him closer and caused him to depend upon Christ more. He continued to pray with faith and to recognize Christ as his strength and salvation. He said, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day . . . I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (2 Tim. 1:12; Phil. 4:13). Paul conceded to God the right to say what was best and accepted it gracefully, and was therewith content.
David prayed most sincerely and fervently for his child while it was alive. The child died, David arose from the earth, refreshed himself and worshiped God. His servants could not understand his actions. He said, "While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (2 Sam. 12:15-23). David did not forsake God because He refused to spare his child. He was drawn closer to the Father and served him more fervently. He was called a man after God's own heart (1 Sam. 13:14).
Our finite minds cannot grasp the infinite mind of God. We must allow faith to make the connection. Our inabilities cannot comprehend the infinite good of God. Klan cannot know what God has prepared for him. This was true in the preparation of the church and it certainly is true in the eternal world (1 Cor. 2:9). Faith must lead us to gladly accept the infinite good from God (Jas. 1:17). The ineffable power, wisdom, love and concern God has manifested toward us will surely beget in us an ineffable faith, love and submission to Him in all things. If this be true, we can and will pray, "Thy will be done - not ours." This is indeed the characteristic attitude of a true child of God. It will also enhance our desire to pray.
Faith is manifested when one enters his closet, closes the door and prays. He really believes that the Father will hear and award (Matt. 6:6). Jesus, our Lord, leaves us an example: "In the morning, rising up before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed" (Mark 1:35). His apostles prayed together (Acts 4:31), and by the riverside (Acts 16:13); at Miletus, Paul "kneel down, and prayed with them all" (Acts 20:36); and Luke said that at Tyre along with the disciples, women and children, just before boarding the ship, "We kneeled down on the shore and prayed" (Acts 21:5). They prayed together.
God May Refuse To Give Our Requests
There will be times when God refuses to grant our requests, times when He withholds for a reason, and times when they are granted. This should not determine our faith. The Psalmist cried, "Lord, why casteth thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me?" (Ps. 88:14). But he did not cease to pray. He prayed, "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer" (Psa. 19:14).
We may become as the prophet, Habakkuk, when he said, "O Lord, how long shall 1 cry, and thou wilt not hear? Even cry out unto Thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!" (Hab. 1:2). The Old Testament men of God could not understand all of God's ways. We cannot understand all of God's dealings with us. But why stagger at that? Is it true in the physical world? Is it not more likely to be manifestly demonstrated in the spiritual? We cannot comprehend the Almighty for He is not man: "hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" (Num. 23:19). He is not slack concerning His promises (2 Pet. 3:9), which means that time does not count with God; He will accomplish His will. Faith is that which lifts man up to God and builds within his heart confidence to say, "Lord, Thy will be done in me. Help my unbelief."
Why Should Christians Pray?
(1) They are children of God and want to talk with their Father.
(2) They recognize their own sinful condition and need forgiveness, (1 Jn. 2:1-2).
(3) They believe that God will hear their pleadings and their cries.
(4) They recognize their inability to do anything without God's care and grace.
(5) They believe that God's will is best and want it done in them.
(6) They remember the needs of all mankind and pray for them.
(7) They believe that God has opened a door of prayer according to His own eternal purpose and they use it.
(8) They believe that the Scriptures so instruct Christians to pray and they gladly accept.
"Pray always," (Luke 18:1), "pray everywhere," (1 Tim. 2:8), "pray without ceasing," (1 Thess. 5:17), are but a few texts in the New Testament to impress us with the need and privilege of prayer. Paul expresses it, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Phil. 4:6). Prayer is indeed a privilege and blessing.
Prayer is not an avenue of escape, but, rather, the acceptance of the reality of God. Prayer is not a substitute for obedience; it is a manifestation of faith in Him who directs the whole affair. Prayer is not for the indifferent, lukewarm, careless, and lazy; but rather to those who are zealous, enthusiastic and committed to God. They recognize that work alone is not sufficient but "faith without works is dead," so they work and pray. The stronger one's faith is, the more he works and prays. The more one prays the more he appreciates and enjoys his relationship with God (1 Jn. 1:7). This leads one into a faithful, active, obedient and confident life in Christ (Rom. 8:1).
I believe that prayer is an open door through which a child of God may approach the Father, express his thanks, make his requests and ask forgiveness and mercy. I believe that He, and He alone, knows what is best and will grant it to His children. I believe that all this is provided within the realm of His Own Will. Therefore, I pray, "Father, I express, intreat and petition that Thy will be done - not mine. Thou art all wise, all powerful and Thy grace is sufficient to sustain us in life and save us eternally. Give me faith to accept it, courage to endure faithfully, and confidence that all is well and best."
Truth Magazine XXIV: 11, pp. 183-185